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Updated Oct 23, 2023

Money Is the Top Motivator for Employees Who Quit Their Jobs

Employees of all generations agree that being underpaid is the top factor motivating them to leave their jobs.

Isaiah Atkins
Isaiah Atkins, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
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Ask any employee about the most essential aspect of having a job, and many might say their paycheck. In fact, salary issues are so critical that many employees might be willing to jump ship over low pay. Research finds that most employees say not getting paid enough is what’s most likely to prompt them to look for a new job. 

We’ll take an in-depth look at what drives good employees to other organizations and offer advice for retaining your team.

Did You Know?Did you know
Unfair performance reviews may prompt employees to quit. In contrast, fair, accurate and frequent performance reviews help employees feel more valued.

Top reasons employees quit their jobs

In a study from the Pew Research Center, 63% of respondents cited low pay as a key reason they left a job in 2021. It’s not surprising that people want higher pay. However, the survey also found that people without at least a four-year college degree typically identified multiple reasons for quitting, not just pay.

Additionally, most respondents who quit their jobs and found either full-time (55%) or part-time (23%) work say they’ve found more fulfilling work. Among these respondents, 56% said they were now earning more money, with more opportunities for promotion. Still, only around 42% of respondents said their employee benefits packages have improved, with 22% saying their benefits had worsened with the switch to a new company.

While salary issues topped the list for 2021, respondents left jobs for additional reasons, including the following: 

  • No opportunities for advancement: The same amount of people (63%) as those who made salary their primary motivation said a lack of employee growth opportunities was their main reason for quitting. While a salary boost isn’t dependent on the sort of promotions this group seeks, most advancement opportunities come with a pay increase. But even without money in the picture, most people don’t want to stagnate in their position, particularly younger employees.
  • Feeling disrespected in the workplace: Around 57% of respondents say they quit because they felt disrespected in the workplace. This could also tie directly into the salary issue because workers might not feel they’re getting paid what they’re worth. Of course, that’s far from the only reason an employee might feel disrespected. Whether from company practices, a toxic work environment, or a terrible boss, disrespect can drive anyone away.
  • Childcare issues: Around 48% of respondents said they left their jobs due to childcare issues. The COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing during 2021, keeping kids away from school and possibly without adult supervision. If employees’ work didn’t provide adequate childcare benefits or enough pay to hire someone, they would’ve had no choice but to leave. 
Did You Know?Did you know
a href="/11167-what-to-do-if-underpaid.html">Indications that an employee is being underpaid include a responsibility increase with no additional pay, a salary that doesn't reflect specialized training or education, and pay that hasn't been adjusted for inflation.

How to keep employees from quitting

According to Gallup, employee turnover can cost up to 1.5 to two times the employee’s salary. That number can increase depending on the employee’s seniority. In addition to saving money, employee retention is essential for business growth and success. 

Although there is no surefire way to keep employees from quitting, you can enact strategies to reduce employee turnover and keep effective teams intact.

  • Show respect to all your employees. Listen to employee input and show your team their opinions matter. Give praise when praise is due, and give constructive criticism positively and professionally when necessary.
  • Be consistent as a manager. True leaders are consistent. When you state your expectations from the start and don’t change the rules on a whim, you will make all employees feel more secure in their positions.
  • Allow employees to take the lead. Giving your team more room to grow shows that you value their work and see a future for them within your company. Listen to their ideas and see if you can implement their suggestions. 
  • Give employees opportunities to expand their skill sets. Money isn’t the only driving force for leaving or staying at a company. New-hire training initiatives and programs to encourage professional growth for longtime employees help team members enhance their resumes with new skills. This also brings the organization additional skill sets and value.
  • Offer the best benefits package possible. A company’s benefits package and vacation allotment can significantly impact whether or not an employee will quit. Not every business can afford top-notch salaries, but there are unique and personalized ways to keep employees happy without a raise. In addition to official employee benefits, consider flexible work policies that appeal to employees’ need for a positive work-life balance. 
TipTip
To determine employee salary ranges, review job listings and career boards to check nationwide averages for a given position, and always learn a potential applicant's salary expectations.

Retaining your best employees

High employee turnover isn’t great for a company in the long run – you’ll need to take money from your bottom line to train new hires. You can attract and retain top talent and keep experienced employees loyal if you know their motivations for staying at a job. Meet those expectations, and that’s less money out of your pocket – and a more effective team overall. 

Adam Uzialko contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. 

Isaiah Atkins
Isaiah Atkins, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Isaiah Atkins is a marketing and SEO consultant who is adept at using email campaigns, keyword research and other tools to help brands build strong online awareness. He assists clients with content management, effective communication strategies and audience engagement. This has translated into business advertisements, press releases and in-depth, research-heavy topical guides designed to move readers through the sales funnel. At Business News Daily, Atkins has provided entrepreneurs with actionable guidance on landing page conversion, ROI, business expansion and more, while also advising on business ideas and workplace management. A writer at heart, he is working on his first novel.
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